Nutrition tends to steal the spotlight after you have gastric sleeve. Learning what and how much to eat is crucial for weight loss success, as well as avoiding gastrointestinal discomfort. With so much emphasis on food, however, sometimes exercise gets lost in the mix.
I want to encourage you to bring it back into the mix. In short: Do it. Slowly at first. Keep it up.
Let’s tackle the first part—“do it.” Because gastric sleeve changes the size of your stomach in order to reduce your food intake, you may wonder why it’s important to exercise. After all, shouldn’t reducing calories be enough? The truth is that, yes, restricting the amount of food you can eat will be responsible for much of your weight loss.
BUT (this is a big but) building muscle through exercise increases the amount of weight you lose now and in the future. Muscle burns calories at a much higher rate than other types of body tissue. Plus, exercise is widely recognized as a stress zapper and happiness booster. Who doesn’t want a little more happiness in their life?
Now onto “slowly at first.” The gastric sleeve procedures we perform are some of the safest in the world. But it’s still surgery. So we generally recommend that you wait a few weeks after the procedure to begin exercising—starting with walking. This isn’t the time to dive into a marathon running session, no matter how much you want to shed pounds. Begin with five minutes, adding another few minutes a day until you hit 45 to 60 minutes, most days of the week.
Assuming that your walking regimen goes well and that you’re eating at least 800 calories a day, you can slowly increase the intensity of your routine. Experiment to find a style of exercise (or two or three!) enjoyable enough that you’ll want to keep doing it. And be sure to incorporate muscle-building sessions—rather than just aerobic activity—two or three days a week.
And then, yep, “keep it up.” Continuing to add muscle to your frame has a long list of benefits for anyone, but especially for gastric sleeve patients. If you’re sticking to the nutrition guidelines we’ve provided, your body is working with much less fuel than it’s used to. That can lead to feeling tired. It sounds counter-intuitive, but exercise actually gives you energy—an especially welcome feeling for patients who are adjusting to a new normal.
If the mood lift isn’t motivation enough, maybe this will help: muscle incinerates fat like crazy. Whether you’re walking around the grocery store or reading a book, muscle needs more energy (read: calories) to function than other body tissues. In other words, you’ll be burning more calories even at rest. Sweet! And, ladies, if you’re worried about looking bulky, don’t. It’s extremely difficult for women to build Hulk-like muscles; rather, you’ll look more toned and compact.
If you’ve never been a fan of exercise, now is the time to get excited about it. Exercise works wonders on your body and mind—and we can’t wait to see how it contributes to your unique success story!